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My 3 Favorite Photoshop Tools

By Shaun Culbertson | September 29, 2017


Here are three of my most important and favorite photoshop tools I use for when designing digital assets:

Fill / Content-Aware

I remember the day I learned this technique. It felt like being a kid on Christmas morning opening a brand new toy. Only this toy makes my life much easier.

Designers are constantly challenged with trying to fit a client-approved photo into the canvas. Along with logo, typography, and a digital call-to-action (button). More often than not the subject matter in the photo blends with these elements. With less negative space to work with, I had to constantly airbrush and clone more of the photograph. It’s not easy, and it’s time consuming. Content-Aware scans the contents of the image to figure out what the photo would have looked like if the unwanted object or area had never been there. It lets you repair or replace larger, more challenging areas, even multiple areas at once. Simply create selections around them and let Photoshop do the rest. Amazing! This provides more negative space for logo, typography, and buttons and less conflict with the subject matter.

Smart Objects

Back in the day, Photoshop files would have hundreds of different layers. Files were confusing and cluttered. Later, “Groups” were created and this made for more efficient organization of the layered mess. But Smart Objects one-upped layer groups.

Creating Layer Groups into Smart Objects has made website creation much easier to maintain. Designers can create primary navigations, menus, and footer navigations in Layer Groups and then convert them to Smart Objects, which generates a .PSB file. That .PSB can be linked to multiple .PSD files from one source file. That way if you make an edit to the primary navigation (.PSB file) it will update all .PSD pulling it in. This concept is similar to how InDesign works. Smart Objects can be vector files or photographs too. They can be edited in Illustrator and the changes linked back to Photoshop.


I find this photo editing tool to be the digital designer’s secret weapon. It’s the tool you use when type is not legible on a photo or it’s too hard to read. Text is texture. Photos have texture. So when you have one texture on top of the another, it often causes legibility problems. Lowering the Dodge or Burn output and subtly brushing it behind the copy will make your copy more legible. Of course, you have may have to change a color or shadow, but at least you can maintain your design composition to make the copy more legible at the same time.

Those are my three favorite Photoshop tools. I’d love to hear what your’s are.


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